Running is fantastic for your health and longevity. However, it is the most injurious sport in the entire world!
You read that right; you are more likely to get injured running than playing football.
I'm going to tell you a secret, though; runner's who strengthen their lower legs and feet are 2.4x less likely to get injured! That is a pretty big deal!
Here are my three favourite lower leg exercises that I think every runner should do!
1. Seated Calf Raises
This may seem all too straightforward, but calf raises are critical in ensuring proper strength in the lower leg while running.
While we run, we are essentially jumping from side to side repeatedly for a period of time. Our Achilles tendon attaches to our calf's two very prominent muscles: the soleus and the gastrocnemius. The complex of the soleus, gastrocnemius and the Achilles tendon is crucial, and injury to the Achilles tendon is one of the most common injuries for a runner!
To ensure that the Achilles tendon can handle the stress that running puts on it, we need to strengthen the tendon. We strengthen the tendon by strengthening the muscles.
It is essential to perform this exercise is simple: performing the seated version emphasizes the soleus. Research demonstrates that the soleus is critical in mitigating injuries to the Achilles and the ACL more than the gastrocnemius.
2. Banded Lunges
Quad strength and proper foot function are essential for running. This lunge variation attacks both!
As we propel ourselves forward and our toes are coming off the ground, our weight should transfer from the outside of our heel to our big toe. Frequently, runners will make the mistake of letting their foot roll outwards and toe-off from the outside of their leg.
This lunge variation does an incredible job having your practice proper toe-off, and proper knee placement.
3. Toe Raises (Tib Ant Raises)
Your tibialis anterior is a big muscle along the front of your lower leg that is primarily responsible for pulling your toes towards your nose. If this muscle is weak, you can be the unlucky recipient of shin splints.
A study followed cadets in training for 12 months, assessing both male and female cadets. After a 12-month training program, the study found that those that experienced shin splints had smaller calves and weaker hips.
A study in November of 2020 showed that proper foot strengthening decreased the injury rate by 2.42 fold!
This exercise is essential for any runner to do!
One Final Note
In reality, you do not need to be doing THESE exercises. There are literally thousands of exercises you can choose from, these are just the ones that I like to see my patients doing. But you should be doing SOME form of strength training. Both for injury prevention AND to improve your performance.
In general, I recommend some form of:
- Lower Leg Specific Training
- Hip Specific Training
- Core Training (primarily "anti-rotation" or '"anti-movement "exercises)
- Compound Movements emphasizing the Posterior Chain Strength Exercises (glutes and hamstrings)
- Basic Upper Body Strength exercises (1-2 pressing and pulling exercises)
- Foot Strengthening
Cover all these bases and you are bound to feel better and run with more confidence
If you are looking to increase your running performance, and decrease your risk of injuries, incorporate these five exercises into your workouts!
If you are currently experiencing pain with running, don't run through the pain! Get your injury assessed! E3 Chiropractic + Wellness provides the care you deserve and the tools you need to ensure that those nagging injuries don't keep you from enjoying the sport you love!
If you are a runner who is currently experiencing pain or an injury, click HERE to book an appointment today!